Good, Better, Best?
by Dave Harris
Are you a “good Christian”? Would you say of yourself that you are a “better Christian” than you were last year? How many of us are—day-in and day-out—living the “best Christian” life we can?
The time for us to engage ourselves in our calling is NOW! What we have already accomplished is written, and as to those things that lie ahead, here is what Jesus cautioned us to do, “‘Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble’” (Matthew 6:34).
Solomon, who is known for having great wisdom and knowledge, made this very astute recommendation: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going’” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).
Paul teaches the Christian application of this principle: “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality” (Colossians 3:23-25).
We know, and we are convinced that if we do what is right in God’s sight—if we please Him, the rewards are and will continue to be boundless!
In chapters 12 and 13 of 1 Corinthians, Paul addresses how God has organized the Church of God. Beyond the offices and gifts that are a part of the church, Paul makes this challenge: “But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31). That way is summarized in verse 13 of chapter 13: “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
The Father and Jesus Christ are the greatest in their expression of love. In fact, so complete, so all encompassing and superlative are their ways in this respect, that we have this definition: “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16).
If our Christian lives are to attain the “best,” then let us consider and with heart-felt enthusiasm embrace Paul’s exhortation: “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done with love” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14).
As more information, video footage and eye witness accounts (including from best-selling Swedish author Henning Mankell) emerge about Israel’s raid against a flotilla of “peace activists,” it becomes clearer that at least some of the participating activists anticipated and provoked an Israeli attack, which Israel did in fact carry out in, what has been termed, a most “disastrous” way. As a consequence, the world–especially dubious Turkey–turned against Israel, with the possible exception of the USA.
Radical Iran’s government is capitalizing on the furor against Israel, offering their naval forces to escort future flotillas. This comes on the heels of an announcement by Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, considering the possibility of accompanying future escorts. During his visit in Cypress, and while speaking to a crowd of some 10,000 Cypriots and pilgrims from Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, the Pope “urged the world community to resolve the ongoing tensions in the Middle East before they lead to greater bloodshed.” It is known that the “Vatican backs a Palestinian homeland alongside Israel’s right to exist within internationally recognized borders.”
Another possible debacle is on the horizon for German Chancellor Angela Merkel. If on June 30, her candidate for the next German President should be defeated–which is perceived to be a distinct possibility–then it “could spell the end of Merkel’s government” and “would herald the end of her center-right coalition.” This development is not helped by the German government’s announcement of the “largest package of austerity measures in the country’s history,” following a course of action agreed upon by Europe’s G20 finance ministers and central bankers, which is leading to further tensions between the USA and Germany. We also observed a victory of far-right leader Geert Wilders in the parliamentary elections of The Netherlands.
We conclude with articles on the Oil Spill and about frightening solar activities, reminding us of prophecies in the Bible pertaining to the end time.
This Week in the News
“Israel’s Voyage Into Isolation”
Der Spiegel Online wrote on June 7:
After last Monday’s raid on a flotilla of peace activists heading toward the Gaza Strip, Israel finds itself on the defensive. Not only has Turkey turned its back on the country, but the US too is angered by the unilateralism of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu…
“In fact, the incident couldn’t have been more advantageous for the rulers of the 1.5 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip… Hamas says more ships are on their way, from Turkey, Ireland, Bahrain, Kuwait and Algeria — altogether two or even three times as many ships as participated in last Monday’s effort…
“Rarely has there been so much international outrage toward Israel. Tehran and Damascus, as expected, voiced their typical fury, but this time Israel’s allies in the Middle East also took their distance. Turkey, which lost the largest number of citizens on the Mavi Marmara, accused Israel of ‘piracy’ and ‘banditry.’ Egypt opened its border to the Gaza Strip, thereby abandoning the blockade policy it had pursued together with Israel.
“At the summit between Russia and the European Union, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and EU Foreign Minister Catherine Ashton called for an immediate end to the Gaza blockade, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called Israel’s policy ‘unjust,’ and even the Chinese leadership, which normally keeps itself out of the Middle East conflict, said it was ‘shocked by Israel’s attack.’
“The strike, in short, was a disaster, irrespective of exactly how it played out. While some critics remained relatively diplomatic, merely ruffling the Israelis for their ‘immoderate’ approach, others were more direct. The influential German weekly Die Zeit described Israel as a ‘country that is increasingly acting as if it were in a separate moral world, pressured by the feeling of being alone and, as a result, believing itself to be empowered to commit arbitrary attacks.’
“Last Monday’s tragedy demonstrated two things: that Israel is becoming increasingly isolated politically; and that sealing off the Gaza Strip is as inefficient as it is pointless…
“Even those who have long exercised patience in the face of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s unilateralism are beginning to show signs of exasperation. US President Barack Obama has called for a thorough investigation, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, speaking in an unusually harsh tone, demanded international participation in the investigations…”
The USA–Israel’s Only Friend…
Nevertheless, on June 3, the Los Angeles Times reported about a slightly different policy by President Obama, which contradicts somewhat the impression given by the afore-mentioned article by Der Spiegel. The LA Times wrote:
“As most of the world has rushed to condemn Israel for its bungled seizure of a Turkish ferry that was attempting to break the Gaza blockade, President Obama has taken a different approach. Not only has he refused to condemn Israel’s hard-nosed prime minister, Benyamin Netanyahu; he has cast the United States as Israel’s only friend.
“It’s a strategic gamble, and let’s hope it works… The Americans hope that the prime minister and at least some of the parties in his coalition will conclude that the status quo can’t be maintained — in Gaza or the West Bank. It’s not a foolproof strategy; there’s no such thing in the Middle East. It’s an attempt to wring some good out of a terrible crisis and, officials believe, the least bad alternative under the circumstances.”
Ultimately, as the Bible prophesies, Israel will find itself in isolation and total abandonment even by its closest allies. It is not our responsibility or purpose to assess blame or to take sides; rather, we are reporting the facts in the light of biblical prophecy. It is our commission to stand watch and, as a watchman who sees the disaster coming, warn those who are willing to listen and to heed. Everybody seems to have an opinion as to whether Israel acted correctly or illegally or excessively–but our point is that the developments in the Middle East, including the most recent events, set in motion biblically prophesied events, which will shortly come to pass.
Mankell: Here Is What Happened…
On June 7, Der Spiegel Online published an interview with best-selling Swedish author Henning Mankell, who is partially Jewish and who was on the convoy that was raided last week by Israeli commandos as it headed for the Gaza Strip. We are bringing you the following excerpts from Mankell’s statements which, if true, would be very damaging to Israel’s conduct:
“I was never on the main ship, the Mavi Marmara. We set sail from Cyprus. We were far out in international waters when the Israelis attacked… someone came in and said that the main ship had been attacked. From a distance, we saw the helicopters and the soldiers rappelling onto the deck, and we heard shots. We had no connection to the Mavi Marmara. It was only on the way to the Lufthansa flight that took me back to Stockholm (Editor’s note: Mankell was deported by Israeli authorities) that I learned of the dead… They came in speedboats [to board Mankell’s ship, the Sofia]. We went onto the bridge and waited for them there, and we offered no resistance…
“The Israeli soldiers were wearing masks, and they told us to go below deck. Some of us were somewhat older, and we weren’t moving fast enough for the Israelis, so the soldiers used electroshock weapons to speed us up. It was horrible. People were falling down. They shot rubber bullets at a man who was standing next to me. The soldiers were prepared to use violence on us from the beginning. And all of this in international waters. They had no legal basis for coming on board… They took control of the ship and set course for Israel. First it was piracy, and then it was kidnapping… they took away everything we had: phones, money, clothing, credit cards. That’s how each of [us] was treated. They are thieves…
“The commandos arrived in helicopters. It wasn’t the people on the ship who were boarding the helicopters. Besides, there is a right of self-defense in international waters… I spoke with a Swede who was on board the Mavi Marmara. He said that they shot a Palestinian in the middle of his head. That requires targeting, and it’s something that has to be intended… When we gathered below deck, the soldiers searched our ship, and when they returned they said they had found weapons. What were they? Razor blades and utility knives… I am extremely critical of Hamas… I don’t trust this president (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) and the mullahs. They want to have any weapon that can be used to destroy Israel. Naturally we cannot accept that… I had an invitation to a literature festival in Tehran, which I turned down… Iran puts writers and intellectuals in prison and makes some of them disappear. I can’t go to a country like that… By the way, I have many Jewish friends, my books are published in Hebrew and are bestsellers, and a branch of my family is Jewish… I’m an eyewitness, because I was there. So much false information has already been disseminated…”
Eye Witness Accounts
On June 7, Der Spiegel Online published the following eye witness accounts of three people who were on board the Mavi Marmara. If true, these accounts would be damaging to Israel’s conduct, but they would also show that at least some of the activists were fully prepared for an Israeli attack, and that their whole purpose was to provoke such an attack for the glory of Mohammed and in anticipation of an “intifada” “holy war”:
“When the Hamburg resident Nader El Sakka, 58, tried to board the Challenger I in the port of Agios Nikolaos on Crete, he was told he had to sign a four-page document pledging that he would not engage in violence and that he possessed no weapons. He also had to provide the name and telephone number of a family member in case of an emergency. If he didn’t sign, he was told, he wouldn’t be allowed on board the Gaza-bound convoy. El Sakka… went on board the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish passenger ship. The flagship of the small fleet, it had Gaza activists on board from a dozen countries, the majority of whom — around 400 people — hailed from Turkey… The ship was linked via satellite with the Internet and a number of TV stations and continuously sent out images and interviews to the world. A reporter from the Arab news channel Al-Jazeera filed a report on Sunday afternoon that made headlines a number of days later. A group of Arab activists could be seen chanting: ‘Remember Khaibar, Khaibar, oh Jews! Muhammad’s army is returning!’
“This is an intifada battle cry, a fighting slogan that recalls a victorious battle fought by the Prophet Muhammad’s army against the Jews. El Sakka… disapproves… ‘I didn’t personally see this group on the ship. But I recognize the reporter. He was definitely there.’ The other footage in the report also stems from the Mavi Marmara, he says — including a woman standing on deck and saying in Arabic: ‘Right now we face one of two happy endings: either martyrdom or reaching Gaza’…
“Captain Mahmut Tural spotted Israeli ships on his radar. In response to their demand that he change course, he responded: ‘Negative. Our destination is Gaza.’ Then he ordered an exercise to prepare the passengers for an emergency… The activists suspected that an attack was imminent. They began to assign watches on deck…
“Israeli navy speedboats pulled up alongside the ship. The soldiers threw stun grenades and teargas grenades on deck… The only video footage initially released of the military’s Operation Sky Winds all came from the Israeli army. They showed soldiers rappelling from helicopters and being beaten down on deck by men armed with pipes and clubs. Towards the end of the week, details emerged from the films confiscated from the activists, including some that even surprised the Israelis. According to the newspaper Yediot Ahronot, one of the tapes shows an ‘Arab-looking woman’ using a stick to keep men from beating up an Israeli soldier. Furthermore ‘a number of leftist European activists are trying to protect the soldiers’…
“El Sakka fled to the lower deck when he noticed that live ammunition was being fired… He observed that an increasing number of dead and wounded were being brought down, including three injured soldiers… The shooting stopped after an hour, and a message came through the intercom that the ship was now under Israeli command. All passengers, including Sakka and Paech, were tied up and forced to kneel on the bloodstained upper deck. The ordeal lasted for four hours. Paech [Norman Paech, a former member of the German parliament, the Bundestag, for the far-left Left Party] and two current Left Party members of the Bundestag, Inge Höger and Annette Groth, who were also on board, later filed complaints against persons unknown for unlawful detention and war crimes.”
Report Claims that Turkey Knew…
Haaretz reported on June 10:
“Turkish Prime Minister… Erdogan knew in advance that activists aboard a Gaza-bound aid flotilla planned to attack Israeli troops, Israeli intelligence officials have said. In a report published this week, a group of independent investigators from Israel’s intelligence community found that activists aboard the ‘Mavi Marmara’ were part of an organized group that was prepared for a violent conflict… The report, published by the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (known in Israel by its Hebrew acronym Malam), said activists who attacked commandos with clubs and knives were supported by the Turkish government.
“Malam is a privately run but is widely seen as an unofficial branch of Israel’s intelligence community and has in the past been a medium for passing Israel’s intelligence findings to the public. The report said while most of the Mavi Marmara’s 500 passengers were humanitarian volunteers who underwent security checks before boarding the ship at Antalya in Turkey, a group of 40 IHH activists had boarded the ship in an Istanbul port beforehand, keeping apart from the rest of the passengers throughout the journey.
“This hard core of activists boarded the ship without checks and was equipped with communications equipment, flack jackets embroidered with Turkish flags, and gas masks, Malam said… Their main objective was to hold back soldiers by any means, and to push them back into the sea… IHH members improvised weapons including metal rods and knives cut from the ship’s metal rails, which they used to attack the soldiers… IHH activists also gathered all the knives from six cafeterias on the ship, as well as axes from fire extinguishers on the deck, all of which served as weapons against Israeli commandos…
“The testimonies are also similar to the version given by the Navy commandos who said that they fought with a group of approximately 50 people who used every weapon available to attack them. Eight of the nine dead were identified as IHH members.
“Files found on laptops owned by the IHH members pointed at strong ties between the movement and Turkey’s prime minister. Some of the activists even said that Erdogan was personally involved in the flotilla’s preparations. They also said that they knew in advance that their chances of making it into Gaza were slim, but their initial goal was to ‘to expose Israel’s true face to the world.’ An IHH journalist said during his investigation with Israeli security forces that ‘the Turks set a trap for you and you fell straight into it.’ He also said that the recent flotilla was the first in many.”
The Washington Post wrote on June 7:
“… public anger has flared over Israel’s bloody seizure of a Turkish-flagged aid ship headed to the Gaza Strip, which is under an Israeli blockade. The incident occurred as Turkey has been strengthening ties with Muslim governments in the region — becoming more vocally pro-Palestinian and trying to head off new U.N. sanctions on Iran…
“Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has become an increasingly outspoken critic of Israel. He lambasted Israeli President Shimon Peres during a conference in Switzerland on Jan. 29, 2009, winning applause at home and in the Middle East. Erdogan’s picture was hoisted in the streets of Gaza after he accused Israel of carrying out a ‘bloody massacre’ in seizing the Turkish ship…
“Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party has religious roots, but it also draws conservative entrepreneurs and liberals with its free-market policies and drive to pass democratic reforms in order to win entry into the European Union. Turkey’s relations with Israel have deteriorated dramatically, with Turkish leaders threatening to cut ties to a minimum…
“Historically, Israel and Turkey were close, sharing military aid and a suspicion of Arab countries. But with Turkey improving ties with its neighbors, it no longer needs Israel’s support…
“Turkey is still strongly tied to the West. The European Union is still its biggest market. And Turkish troops have played an important role in NATO operations in Afghanistan. ‘We are a country that wants to maintain its ties both with the West and East,’ Erdogan said in October. ‘There is no such thing as breaking from one side and shifting to another one.'”
Haaretz reported on June 7:
“Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is weighing the possibility of traveling to the Gaza Strip in order to ‘break the Israeli blockade’… Erdogan reportedly raised the idea in conversations with close associates and even informed the United States of his intention to ask the Turkish Navy to accompany another aid flotilla to Gaza. The Americans asked Erdogan to delay his plans, in light of tensions on the region, the Lebanese report said.
“According to the report, Erdogan is under intense political pressure to cancel security agreements with Israel. The Turkish military establishment, however, strongly opposes the idea of cutting security ties with Israel.”
The Herald Sun added on June 6:
“The Lebanese newspaper al Mustaqbal said that ‘as part of the open conflict between Turkey and Israel following the massacre against the ‘freedom sail’ to Gaza and the protest sparked in the world, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan is considering going to Gaza himself in order to break the blockade imposed on the Strip.'”
Turkey is “Edom” in biblical prophecy. The Bible shows that in the latter days, Edom will turn against Judah and assist Europe and other Arab nations in their actions against the state of Israel.
Coming–More Tension in the Middle East
BBC News reported on June 6:
“Israel will reject a proposed international commission to investigate its deadly raid on a Gaza aid flotilla, its ambassador to the US has said… He said Israel would not apologise for the incident. Eight of those killed were Turkish, and the ninth had joint US-Turkish nationality… The UK and France have urged Israel to accept an inquiry involving international oversight. Speaking at a news conference with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, the UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said any investigation must be ‘credible and transparent’… The BBC’s Jonathan Head, in Istanbul, says some of the details seem to contradict Israel’s assertion that their commandos used minimum lethal force.
“In another development on Sunday, a senior Iranian military figure said the country’s elite Revolutionary Guards were ready to escort aid flotillas to Gaza if ordered to by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. ‘The Revolutionary Guards’ naval forces are fully prepared to escort freedom and peace flotillas carrying humanitarian aid from all over the world to the oppressed people of Gaza,’ Ali Shirazi, Ayatollah Khamenei’s naval representative, told Mehr news agency.”
Der Spiegel Online wrote on June 9:
“A group of German Jews has stepped up efforts to send a humanitarian mission to the Gaza Strip in defiance of the Israeli sea blockade. Increasingly, it looks as though the group will have plenty of competition. The waters off Gaza promise to be busy this summer… ‘We want to break the Gaza occupation and end the occupation of the West Bank as well,’ Kate Katzenstein-Leiterer, a member of the executive committee of the European Jews for a Just Peace, which is organizing the mission, told SPIEGEL ONLINE. ‘We as Jews want to bring the Palestinians something other than bombs’…
“She says that between eight and 16 people will be on board the boat, which plans to sail in mid-July. The ship, whose current location in the Mediterranean is being kept secret, will be carrying school supplies, musical instruments, children’s clothing and ‘stuff for children that Israel has forbidden, such as sweets and chocolates’…
“Israel has vowed to continue its blockade of the Gaza Strip, reiterating its concern that Iran, in particular, seeks to smuggle weapons and munitions to the Islamist militants of Hamas. Still, Israeli officials said on Wednesday that the country was expanding the list of food items being allowed into the territory, the first small sign that Israel wishes to calm global nerves frayed by the raid.
“Additionally the National Union of Israeli Students is hoping to be able to send 300 yachts and two ships toward Turkey with the aim of intercepting any additional aid ships and engaging them in dialogue. ‘We will tell them that if they want to help Gaza’s residents, we will be happy to deliver their aid,’ reads the group’s press release. ‘We would also like to (discuss) the Armenian issue and the problem of the Kurdish minority in Turkey.’
“European Jews for a Just Peace, for their part, are also interested in dialogue and have twice tried contacting the Israeli Embassy in Berlin to discuss their impending aid shipment. So far, says Katzenstein-Leiterer, they haven’t received a response.”
New “Sanctions” Against Iran
BBC News reported on June 9:
“The UN Security Council has voted in favour of fresh sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme. The council voted 12 to two, with one abstention, in favour of a fourth round of sanctions, including tighter finance curbs and an expanded arms embargo… The Security Council resolution was opposed by Turkey and Brazil. They had earlier brokered a deal with Iran on uranium enrichment. Lebanon abstained.
“The new sanctions were passed after being watered down during negotiations with Russia and China on Tuesday. There are no crippling economic sanctions and there is no oil embargo. Those passed include prohibiting Iran from buying heavy weapons such as attack helicopters and missiles.
“They also toughen rules on financial transactions with Iranian banks and increase the number of Iranian individuals and companies that are targeted with asset freezes and travel bans. There is also a new framework of cargo inspections to detect and stop Iran’s acquisition of illicit materials.”
Reuters wrote on June 10:
“Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that new U.N. sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear programme do not oblige Moscow to scrap a controversial deal to deliver surface-to-air missiles to Iran.”
AFP wrote on June 10:
“Turkish Prime Minister… Erdogan offered reassurance on Thursday that his country is not turning away from the West in the wake of its vote against UN sanctions on Iran, calling such charges ‘dirty propaganda’… US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said Wednesday the European Union’s refusal to offer Turkey a swift accession process has partly caused Ankara’s foreign policy shift and the deterioration in its relations with Israel…
“Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said he agreed with Gates, urging the EU to speed up Turkey’s EU accession talks… ‘I believe we Europeans have made a mistake in pushing Turkey to the east, instead of pulling it towards us,’ he said. Negotiations over the accession of Turkey have stalled, with France and Germany blocking its path. This has provoked regular anger from Ankara, which accuses the Europeans of going back on their word following the start of entry negotiations in 2005.”
The Pope in Cyprus
Deutsche Welle reported on June 6:
“Speaking to a crowd of some 10,000 Cypriots and pilgrims from Syria, Jordan and Lebanon in a stadium outside the capital Nicosia, Pope Benedict XVI urged the world community to resolve the ongoing tensions in the Middle East before they lead to greater bloodshed. The pontiff prayed for the success of a synod of Middle Eastern bishops in Rome in October, which is set to grapple with the problems of the region.
“Calling the latest tensions between Israel and Palestinians ‘a grave matter,’ Benedict said he hoped the meeting would ‘help focus the attention of the international community’ on the conflict in the region and the ‘plight of Christians in the Middle East who suffer for their beliefs’…
“Following the outdoor service, the Pope unveiled a working paper for the synod… it expresses concern about radical Islam. ‘These extremist currents, clearly a threat to everyone – Christians, Jews and Muslims – require joint action,’ the document states… The 40-page paper also says that the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict contributed to the political, economic and religious tensions in the region. The Vatican backs a Palestinian homeland alongside Israel’s right to exist within internationally recognized borders.”
The Bible shows that in the end time, the Catholic Church will play a dominant role in European efforts to bring peace to the Middle East.
The New German President–Another Debacle for Merkel?
Der Spiegel Online wrote on June 7:
“Chancellor Angela Merkel, a master tactician when it comes to the politics of power, has been outmaneuvered for once, and could get into serious trouble as a result. The sudden resignation of the country’s largely ceremonial president and head of state, Horst Köhler, last Monday was the latest in a series of blows that have dented her reputation with voters and her authority in government this year. To avoid further damage and to demonstrate that she still has a firm grip on the reins in Berlin, Merkel needs to find a suitable replacement for Köhler and to ensure that he gets the necessary backing from her center-right majority in the Federal Assembly… on June 30 to elect the president…
“Her chosen candidate for president, Christian Wulff, the governor of the northern state of Lower Saxony, initially seemed like a safe and easy choice. Wulff, a deputy leader of Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), is a bland, inoffensive career politician… Wulff would have been a shoo-in for the job if the Social Democrats and Greens hadn’t landed a coup by nominating a rival who most observers and even many of Merkel’s followers believe would make a far better president — Joachim Gauck, 70, a Protestant pastor from eastern Germany who opposed the communist regime, someone whom Merkel herself has showered with praise in the past. After unification, Gauck spent 10 years heading the authority that manages the archives of East Germany’s secret police, the Stasi, thereby making a major contribution to shedding light on the crimes of East Germany.
“Unfortunately for Merkel, large parts of the German media, including SPIEGEL magazine and mass-circulation Bild am Sonntag, have come out strongly in favor of Gauck, and some eastern German members of the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP), the junior partner in Merkel’s center-right coalition, have raised the prospect that they might vote for Gauck rather than Wulff on June 30.
“Newspapers have been comparing the biographies of the two contenders and many have concluded that Gauck has much more to offer the nation. SPIEGEL writes that Wulff hasn’t come up with a memorable initiative or piece of legislation in over 30 years in politics, while Gauck struck a blow for freedom and democracy by helping to bring down the East German regime… Were Gauck to ultimately win, it could spell the end of Merkel’s government, German media commentators write on Monday…
“Center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes: ‘The reaction in parts of the media as well as among the conservatives and the FDP to the nomination of Lower Saxony Governor Wulff make clear: on June 30, Merkel’s chancellorship will be in real danger for the first time…’
“Conservative Die Welt writes: ‘… Wulff looks bad compared with Gauck. That’s not his fault, it’s to Gauck’s credit. The ruling parties seem to be reacting by digging in their heels. The ranks are being closed, dissent is being portrayed as betrayal of the government. But what, apart from vain pride, should prevent a rethink given the new circumstances?’
“Left-wing Die Tageszeitung devotes its entire front page to reprinting verbatim a speech Merkel gave on Jan. 22 in Berlin on the occasion of Gauck’s 70th birthday in which she showers him with praise, calling him an ‘outstanding speaker,’ an ‘exciting personality,’ a ‘true teacher of democracy,’ a tireless advocate of ‘freedom, democracy and justice.’ The newspaper’s headline is ‘Merkel’s Ideal President.’
“Business daily Financial Times Deutschland writes: ‘Gauck could turn into a disaster for Merkel. Her style of politics is backfiring now — taking decisions on her own, alienating allies and weakening strong political figures…’ The paper quotes an unnamed Merkel ally as saying that a defeat of Wulff would be a ‘disastrous scenario’ for Merkel and would herald the end of her center-right coalition.
“Mass circulation Bild writes: ‘If Gauck wins, it will be the knock-out blow for the center-right coalition. It will be the end of the government, then the dream duo Merkel-Westerwelle would have no option but to bid their sad farewells. One might find it regrettable that the presidential election is once again getting sucked into the maelstrom of party politics. But it’s a simple fact: this isn’t just about Gauck or Wulff — this is also about Gauck or Merkel.'”
These are startling developments. This article and the next ones show how fragile the current German government is. We can expect that in the not-too-distant future, a charismatic powerful leader will arise in Germany who will be able to bring back prosperity and stability to the German people. It is clear that Angela Merkel is not this leader.
The Economy–More Bad News for Merkel…
Deutsche Welle reported in June 7:
“The German government on Monday unveiled the largest package of austerity measures in the country’s history, with deep cuts in social welfare programs and the public sector… The package announced is much larger than expected… Merkel said there was no other alternative to the savings plan…
“Criticism of the austerity measures circulated among trade unions and opposition parties even before the concrete details of the government’s plan had emerged. Andrea Nahles, general secretary of the main opposition Social Democrats, told public broadcaster NDR the cuts created a ‘social imbalance,’ and that the main problem was that they disproportionately affected society’s most vulnerable segments. The powerful union Verdi also criticized the proposals, with union chief Frank Bsirske saying the government was ‘placing unilateral pressure on the poor.'”
World Markets–No Major Good News…
The Associated Press reported in June 7:
“World stock markets tumbled Monday and the euro hit a new four-year low in the wake of poor U.S. jobs figures and amid fresh fears that the debt crisis that began in Greece is spreading to Hungary… Hungary is part of the European Union, but keeps its national currency, the forint, which dropped around 5 percent last week.
“‘The problem seems like a cancerous thing – it’s spreading from smaller country to smaller country, and many people are afraid that it will spread to a big country like France or Germany, although that’s unlikely,’ said Jackson Wong, vice president at Tanrich Securities, in Hong Kong. ‘We don’t have major good news on the horizon. We still have crises down the road’…
“On Friday, stocks were hit by disappointing U.S. jobs data. A government report showed the U.S. economy created 432,000 jobs in May, far fewer than the expected 513,000. Most of the jobs were temporary hiring by the government for the U.S. census. Castor Pang, director of research at Cinta International in Hong Kong, said the jobs figures were ‘much poorer than expected’ and a key factor in driving down stocks… ‘Volatility is very great due to lack of confidence,’ Pang said, calling some investors ‘very fearful.’
“The result underlined that the U.S. economic recovery is not yet picking up the momentum that investors have been looking for. The Dow Jones industrial average plunged Friday 3.2 percent to 9,931.97. Major indexes all lost more than 3 percent.”
New Tensions Between Europe and USA
The EUObserver wrote on June 7:
“The weekend’s meeting of G20 finance ministers and central bankers saw heated exchanges between US and European representatives, with division centering on the speed at which government budget deficits should be reduced. US treasury secretary Timothy Geithner argued the case for fiscal consolidation over the ‘medium term,’ while Europeans, rattled by the region’s ongoing debt crisis, called for faster cutbacks…
“European representatives said greater emphasis should be placed on restoring healthy public finances. ‘For the vast majority, addressing finances, budget consolidation, is priority No. 1,’ said French finance minister Christine Lagarde. Translating words into action, German cabinet ministers [agreed Sunday] on changes to welfare provision…”
We can expect ongoing tensions between the USA and Europe in many important areas–the economy being a major one. Europe will continue in its efforts to unite as a powerful entity–as most Europeans, as former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt once said, “want the current situation to end where the USA is calling all the shots.”
Election Results in The Netherlands
The Telegraph wrote on June 10:
“With 88 per cent of the votes counted, published partial results showed the Liberals with 31 and Labour on 30. But the real victory went to Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom (PVV), which demands an end to immigration from Muslim countries and a ban on new mosques. The PVV took its number of seats from nine in the last parliament to 24, and could hope to enter a coalition government.
“The far-right leader with his distinctive shock of fair hair called the result ‘magnificent’. ‘The impossible has happened,’ he told a televised party gathering. ‘We are the biggest winner today. The Netherlands chose more security, less crime, less immigration and less Islam.’
“The election ousted Christian Democrat Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende from eight years in office. The Liberals’ narrow lead gives leader Mark Rutte a mandate to form a coalition and become prime minister, but sticking to his austerity policies could prove tough because he needs at least three other parties to secure a parliamentary majority.”
Prince Charles: “Follow the Islamic Way to Save the World”
The Daily Mail wrote on June 10:
“Prince Charles yesterday urged the world to follow Islamic ‘spiritual principles’ in order to protect the environment. In an hour-long speech, the heir to the throne argued that man’s destruction of the world was contrary to the scriptures of all religions – but particularly those of Islam…
“Charles, who is a practising Christian and will become the head of the Church of England when he succeeds to the throne, spoke in depth about his own study of the Koran…
“He added: ‘The inconvenient truth is that we share this planet with the rest of creation for a very good reason – and that is, we cannot exist on our own without the intricately balanced web of life around us. Islam has always taught this and to ignore that lesson is to default on our contract with creation.'”
Water Turns to Blood
The Associated Press reported on or about June 6:
“Waves of gooey tar balls crashed into the white sands of the Florida Panhandle on Friday as BP engineers adjusted a sophisticated cap over the Gulf oil gusher, trying to collect the crude now fouling four states. Even though the inverted funnel-like device was set over the leak late Thursday, crude continued to spew into the sea in the nation’s worst oil spill. Engineers hoped to close several open vents on the cap throughout the day in the latest attempt to contain the oil.
“As they worked on the system underwater, the effect of the BP spill was widely seen. Swimmers at Pensacola Beach rushed out [of] the water after wading into the mess while children played with it on the shore and others inspected the clumps with fascination, some taking pictures. Brown pelicans coated in chocolate syrup-like oil flailed and struggled in the surf on a Louisiana island, where the [beach] was stained in hues of rust and crimson, much like the color of drying blood.
“‘In Revelations, it says the water will turn to blood. That’s what it looks like out here — like the Gulf is bleeding,’ said P.J. Hahn, director of coastal zone management for Plaquemines Parish as he kneeled down to take a picture of an oil-coated feather. ‘This is going to choke the life out of everything.'”
On June 5, 2010, President Obama wrote the following public announcement, which was circulated over the Internet:
“… because of a manmade catastrophe — one that is not their fault and beyond their control — their lives [in Grand Isle, Louisiana] have been thrown into turmoil… Today, there are more than 20,000 people working around the clock to contain and clean up this spill. I have authorized 17,500 National Guard troops to participate in the response. More than 1,900 vessels are aiding in the containment and cleanup effort. We have convened hundreds of top scientists and engineers from around the world. This is the largest response to an environmental disaster of this kind in the history of our country.
“We have also ordered BP to pay economic injury claims, and this week, the federal government sent BP a preliminary bill for $69 million to pay back American taxpayers for some of the costs of the response so far. In addition, after an emergency safety review, we are putting in place aggressive new operating standards for offshore drilling. And I have appointed a bipartisan commission to look into the causes of this spill. If laws are inadequate, they will be changed. If oversight was lacking, it will be strengthened. And if laws were broken, those responsible will be brought to justice.
“These are hard times in Louisiana and across the Gulf Coast, an area that has already seen more than its fair share of troubles. The people of this region have met this terrible catastrophe with seemingly boundless strength and character in defense of their way of life. What we owe them is a commitment by our nation to match the resilience they have shown. That is our mission. And it is one we will fulfill.”
American-British Rift Over Oil Spill
Reuters wrote on June 9:
“Oil major BP… believes it may be heading for a showdown with the White House over ever- increasing demands that it cover costs related to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a BP source said on Wednesday. ‘At some point a line has to be drawn,’ the source said.”
The London Evening Standard wrote on June 10:
“Senior Tories today warned Barack Obama to back off as billions of pounds were wiped off BP shares in the row over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Mayor Boris Johnson demanded an end to ‘anti-British rhetoric, buck-passing and name-calling’ after days of scathing criticism directed at BP by the President and other US politicians. Former Conservative Party chairman Lord Tebbit branded Mr Obama’s conduct ‘despicable’. And with the dispute threatening to escalate into a diplomatic row, Mr Johnson also appeared to suggest that David Cameron should step in to defend BP.
“He spoke as the US onslaught against the firm became a ‘matter of national concern’ — especially given its importance to British pensions, which lost much of their value today as BP shares plunged to a 13-year low. Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today whether he thought the Prime Minister should intervene, Mr Johnson said: ‘Well I do think there is something slightly worrying about the anti-British rhetoric that seems to be permeating from America. Yes I suppose that’s right…’
“British business chiefs are alarmed that tough talking by Mr Obama and other US politicians is undermining the battered oil giant.”
As the Sun Awakens…
Nasa Science reported on June 4:
“Earth and space are about to come into contact in a way that’s new to human history… Richard Fisher, head of NASA’s Heliophysics Division, explains what it’s all about: ‘The sun is waking up from a deep slumber, and in the next few years we expect to see much higher levels of solar activity.’
“… people of the 21st-century rely on high-tech systems for the basics of daily life. Smart power grids, GPS navigation, air travel, financial services and emergency radio communications can all be knocked out by intense solar activity. A century-class solar storm, the Academy warned, could cause twenty times more economic damage than Hurricane Katrina…
“2010 marks the 4th year in a row that policymakers, researchers, legislators and reporters have gathered in Washington DC to share ideas about space weather. This year, forum organizers plan to sharpen the focus on critical infrastructure protection. The ultimate goal is to improve the nation’s ability to prepare, mitigate, and respond to potentially devastating space weather events.
“‘I believe we’re on the threshold of a new era in which space weather can be as influential in our daily lives as ordinary terrestrial weather.’ Fisher concludes. ‘We take this very seriously indeed.'”
Regarding end-time events, Christ warned: “And there will be signs in the sun… and on earth distress of nations, with perplexity… for the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Luke 21:25-26).
Can you shed some light on the significance of a "red heifer" to be born prior to the coming of the Messiah?
Let us first of all understand that there is nothing in the Bible demanding a red heifer to be born prior to the return of Jesus Christ. It is true, however, that some Jews and Christians have attached an end-time application to the ancient Old Testament ritual of the killing of a red heifer for purposes of purification. As will be explained herein, this ritual is no longer in force. But some Jews and Christians believe that the ritual must be applied today, as a prerequisite for the commencement of sacrifices and the building of a third temple, and they expect a red heifer soon to be born. (In fact, when conducting a Yahoo search on the Internet, one receives about 280,000 results for “red heifer.”).
To obtain a better understanding as to the rationale behind this expectation, let us first review the rituals pertaining to the red heifer, as described in Numbers 19.
The Wikipedia Encyclopedia informs us that “The Red Heifer… was a sacrificial cow whose ashes were used for the ritual purification of people who came into contact with a corpse. According to Numbers 19:2: ‘Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring thee a red heifer without spot, wherein is no blemish, and upon which never came [a] yoke’… The heifer is then slain (Numbers 19:3) and burned outside of the camp (Numbers 19:3–6)… the remaining ashes are placed in a vessel containing pure water (Numbers 19:9).
“In order to purify a person who has become ritually contaminated by contact with a corpse, water from the vessel is sprinkled on him, using a bunch of hyssop, on the third and seventh day of the decontamination process (Numbers 19:18–19)… The kohen [Levitical priest] who performs the ritual must… bathe himself and his clothes in water. He shall be deemed impure until evening.”
Just based on this description, it is indeed difficult to see at first how the ancient “red heifer” ritual could have anything to do with the coming of the Messiah or even a purification ceremony pertaining to a third temple. However, we should take note of the fact that the ritual was applied in conjunction with the tabernacle in the wilderness, the predecessor of the temple (compare Numbers 19:4, 13).
Based on their “interpretations,” the “oral law” and other traditional “additions” to the Law of God, Judaism has established all kinds of requirements in relationship to the “red heifer” and the “water of purification.”
The Wikipedia Encyclopedia explains:
“… the presence of two black hairs [or two white hairs, see below] invalidates a Red Heifer [as the Jews understand the requirement that the red heifer must be “without spot” as meaning, “without any other color but red,” or “having no mixture of any other color but red”]… there are various other requirements, such as natural birth (Caesarian section renders a Heifer candidate invalid). The water must be ‘living’ or spring water… Rainwater… cannot be used in the Red Heifer ceremony. The Mishnah reports that in the days of the Temple in Jerusalem, water for the ritual came from the Spring of Shiloah…
“To ensure complete ritual purity of those involved, enormous care was taken to ensure that no-one involved in the Red Heifer ceremony could have had any contact with the dead… The Mishnah recounts that children were used to draw and carry the water for the ceremony, children born and reared in isolation for the specific purpose of ensuring that they never came into contact with a corpse…
“According to the Mishnah, the ceremony of the burning of the Red Heifer itself took place on the Mount of Olives. A pure priest slaughtered the Heifer, and totally sprinkled of its blood in the direction of the Temple seven times… In recent years, the site of the burning of the Red Heifer on the Mount of Olives has been tentatively located by archaeologist Yonatan Adler…
“The existence of a red heifer that conforms with all of the rigid requirements [of Jewish tradition] is a biological anomaly. The animal must be entirely of one color, and there are a series of tests listed by the rabbis to ensure this, for instance, the hair of the cow must be absolutely straight (to ensure that the cow had not previously been yoked, as this is a disqualifier). According to Jewish tradition, only nine Red Heifers were actually slaughtered in the period extending from Moses to the destruction of the Second Temple…
“The absolute rarity of the animal, combined with the mystical ritual in which it is used, have given the Red Heifer special status in Jewish tradition… Because the state of ritual purity obtained through the ashes of a Red Heifer is a necessary prerequisite for participating in any Temple service, efforts have been made in modern times by Jews wanting to rebuild the Temple to locate a red heifer and recreate the ritual…”
Gershom Gorenberg writes the following in “The End of Days,” copyright 2001:
“… this sacrifice [of the red heifer] must be performed outside the Temple, yet the heifer’s ash becomes the key to the sanctuary: It alone can cleanse a man or woman tainted by contact with human death… anyone who touches a corpse, or bone, or grave, anyone who even enters the room of a dead body, is rendered impure, and must not enter the Temple. Yet proximity to death is an unavoidable part of life… So to free a person from impurity… mix the heifer’s cinder with water, and sprinkle the mixture on him… Two white hairs would disqualify [the heifer]… The last ashes of the last heifer ran out sometime after the Romans razed the Temple in Jerusalem in the year 70. Every Jew became impure by reason of presumed contact with death…”
We need to understand that the temporary ritual pertaining to the red heifer pointed at and foreshadowed the atoning Sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible explains:
“This burning of the heifer [was not] performed at the altar… yet was typical of the death and sufferings of Christ… It must not only be without blemish, typifying the spotless purity and sinless perfection of the Lord Jesus, but it must [be] a red heifer, because of the rarity of the colour… Christ, as man, was the Son of Adam, red earth, and we find him red in his apparel, red with his own blood, and red with the blood of his enemies. And it must be one on which never came [a] yoke, which was not insisted on in other sacrifices, but thus was typified the voluntary offer of the Lord Jesus… our Lord Jesus, being made sin and a curse for us, suffered without the gate…
“Eleazar was to sprinkle the blood directly before the door of the tabernacle, and looking steadfastly towards it… This signified the satisfaction that was made to God by the death of Christ, our great high priest, who by the eternal Spirit… offered himself without spot unto God…”
Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible adds:
“The ordinance of the red heifer was a sacrifice of general application. All the people were to have an interest in it, and therefore the people at large are to provide the sacrifice… the ordinance of the red heifer… was designed to typify the sacrifice of our blessed Lord.”
As mentioned before, the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ superseded the red heifer ceremony. Paul writes in Hebrews 9:9-10 that the Old Testament rituals and fleshly ordinances were only imposed until the time of reformation. In this context, he says in Hebrews 9:11-14:
“But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come… Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats and THE ASHES OF A HEIFER, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”
The Jamieson, Fausset and Brown commentary writes:
“The water of separation, made of the ashes of the red heifer, was the provision for removing ceremonial defilement whenever incurred by contact with the dead. As she was slain without the camp, so Christ… The ashes were laid by for constant use; so the continually cleansing effects of Christ’s blood, once for all shed. In our wilderness journey we are continually contracting defilement by contact with the spiritually dead, and with dead works…”
Paul made very clear that Christ came to “take away” sacrifice and offering (Hebrews 10:8-10), and that there is no longer a requirement of offering for sin (Hebrews 10:18). He wrote that the Old Covenant with its rituals has been made obsolete (Hebrews 8:13). Rather than being purified with water mixed with ashes from a red heifer, “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:22). Paul also explains in Galatians 3:24-25 that we are no longer under the tutor of the ritual law.
It is also interesting to note that the procedures for the inauguration of the Millennial temple, which are outlined in Ezekiel 40, beginning with verse 18, do not mention a red heifer or water of purification.
In conclusion, the red heifer ritual is no longer biblically commanded, and the Bible does not demand the birth and sacrifice of a red heifer and its ashes as a requirement for the return of Christ. However, it is very likely that Jewish clerics may insist that the sacrifice of such a heifer to produce the ashes for the water of purification of the Temple Mount and the temple itself will be essential for the reconstruction of the temple and the coming of the Messiah. We can therefore expect that the diligent search for a “pure” and “spotless” red heifer will continue.
Lead Writer: Norbert Link
Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock
A new StandingWatch program was posted on the Web, “The Horror of ‘Artificial Life.'” In the program, the following was discussed: Two American scientists claim that they created artificial life with no ancestor. But the new biological science has the potential to do great harm. And what about animal cross-breeding, cloning, human-animal hybrids, nanobots and self-replicating robots? What does the Bible have to say about man’s desire to “play God”?
A new German sermon was posted on the Web, titled, “Lazarus und der Reiche” (“Lazarus and the Rich Man).”
The member letter for June has been written and will be posted shortly and sent out early next week.
How This Work is Financed
This Update is an official publication by the ministry of the Church of the Eternal God in the United States of America; the Church of God, a Christian Fellowship in Canada; and the Global Church of God in the United Kingdom.
Editorial Team: Norbert Link, Dave Harris, Rene Messier, Brian Gale, Margaret Adair, Johanna Link, Eric Rank, Michael Link, Anna Link, Kalon Mitchell, Manuela Mitchell, Dawn Thompson
Technical Team: Eric Rank, Shana Rank
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